Shark Night (2011)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #252

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 2, 2011
Sub-Genre: Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $25,000,000
Box Office: $40,136,479
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: David R. Ellis
Producers: Chris Briggs, Mike Fleiss, Lynette Howell
Screenplay: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg
Special Effects: Matt Kutcher, Walt Conti
Visual Effects: Jon Campfens, Tushar Kewlani
Cinematography: Gary Capo
Score: Graeme Revell
Editing: Dennis Virkler
Studios: Sierra Pictures, Incentive Filmed Entertainment, Silverwood Films, Next Entertainment
Distributors: Rogue, Entertainment Film Distributors, Relativity Media
Stars: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Chris Zylka, Joel David Moore, Sinqua Walls, Alyssa Diaz, Joshua Leonard, Donal Logue, Jimmy Lee Jr., Damon Lipari, Christine Bently, Kelly Sry, Tyler Bryan

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Suggested Audio Candy

Graeme Revell “Shark Night”

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Jaws must be turning in his watery grave right now. After his extensive services to natural horror one could be forgiven by feeling more than a dash dismayed at the treatment his brethren have received. Even his own franchise culminated in the ill-fated Jaws: The Revenge and things somehow managed to go downhill from there. There have been slight spikes in activity since, most notably in Renny Harlin’s enjoyably preposterous Deep Blue Sea and Andrew Traucki’s tense The Reef but nowadays folk seem content to settle for low-rent cable fodder such as Sharknado and Sharktopus for their kicks.

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David R. Ellis’s Shark Night was significant enough a project to warrant a full theatrical release and, moreover, enjoyed a rather luxurious $25m budget. After not being screened in advance to critics, it was promptly vilified by the press upon release and, despite recouping its outlay, disappeared from sight soon afterwards with the word abysmal ringing in its ears. It took advantage of the current craze for 3D technology and milked this gimmick for all it was worth. Universally trashed by critics and audiences alike, it was regarded by many as one of the worst films of 2011. Whilst aware that it wasn’t likely to leave any kind of lasting impression, I remained upbeat that, at the very least, it would provide enough thrills and spills to justify its existence.

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Having paddled about in its murky waters I can now report that it does exactly what it says on the tin and, despite being ludicrous in extremities, it’s actually rather a lot of mindless fun. Realistic expectation is key here as anyone expectant of great things will invariably be left treading water but, overlook its numerous flaws, and it falls comfortably into the so bad it’s good category. Plausibility is not its strong point and it’s completely devoid of any ingenuity whatsoever but it does offer chum line in the shape of various bikini-clad fodder all lining up to become the next meal consumed so, on that count at least, it succeeds.

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It tells the story of seven university undergraduates who pay a visit to their friend’s remote family vacation home deep in the bayou, unaware that a number of ravenous sharks have also taken up residency within said waters. Being a saltwater lake it initially appears as though they have drifted in from the ocean but it soon becomes clear that they have been strategically placed here for good reason by a bunch of rednecks with a cross to bear and aspirations of vending their live footage to a small pocket of shark enthusiasts unsatisfied by the exploits of Shark Week and gagging for something a little more hardcore.

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Speaking of which, anyone expecting body parts being chewed up and spat out left, right and center will invariably be left wanting and this is something of a missed trick. In order to guarantee its PG-13 rating, Ellis keeps things light and this is entirely to the film’s detriment. We grue-guzzlers are a thirsty bunch and, combined with sharks’ insatiable appetites, that should spell carnage right? Not even, there is plentiful crimson water but virtually no real meat to sink our incisors into. This would’ve heightened the experience considerably as there’s certainly no great shakes in the plot or characterization department to fall back on and Jaws gave us more to masticate nearly forty years ago.

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Despite being woefully lean in the gore department, there is plenty more to keep the running time moving swimmingly. Joel David Moore is always a pleasure to watch and he brings the usual verve to his admittedly typecast character whereas Sara Paxton, Katharine McPhee and Alyssia Diaz spend the duration in skimpy two-piece bikinis which is no bum steer in Keeper’s books. With a film like Shark Night one is required for look for such low-brow kicks and it delivers just enough supple flesh to keep us invested. Joshua Leonard of The Blair Witch Project also pops up and steals the show as dastardly hick Red.

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Ellis sadly passed away in 2013 and this is his final film, having brought Final Destination 2, The Final Destination and Snakes on a Plane to the table amongst others. First-time screenwriters Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg keep their script tongue-in-cheek whilst wisely steering away from parody. It exists pretty precariously on the cusp mind but there are moments to savor, none least Donal Logue’s charming Faces of Death monologue. However don’t expect social commentary about moral relativism at every turn as it’s a mere flash in the pan. We’re here to watch hulking sharks digesting impossibly beautiful teens and that’s kind of what we get, just minus the chomping.

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Bottom line then. Is Shark Night the downright travesty it has been billed as? No actually it isn’t. I’m not suggesting it is fit to lick the flippers of Alexandre Aja’s 3D Piranha reboot which remembered the importance of a little tits, ass and grue for a film so woefully shallow. Despite its obvious shortcomings it doesn’t outstay its welcome and the sun-bleached location and sunny leads more than keep it afloat. Compared to the impossibly entertaining Snakes on a Plane for one, it just misses one too many opportunities.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The CGI and animatronics are passable although, given that there are numerous breeds on exhibit, the results are varying to say the least. What I would have given for just a little more practical splatter on the platter. As for pelt, and let’s be honest here shall we?, it would’ve helped. Call me a Neanderthal and you’ll have me bang to rights but this is one of those occasions when less means exactly less.

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Read Jaws Appraisal

Read Piranha (1978) Appraisal

Read Piranha(2010) Appraisal

Read Creature Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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